Residents of Joshimath town on Tuesday staged a massive protest against the Uttarakhand Government over the demolition of Malari Inn Hotel, which has been declared “unsafe” by the district administration.
The protestors demanded four times the compensation of the present value of the damaged buildings. The State and residents failed to reach a mutual agreement on the terms.
Thakur Singh Rana, the owner of Malari Inn Hotel, told The Hindu that he would not let his building be demolished unless the State government gave it in writing that he would be paid ₹29 crore as compensation. Threatening to burn himself alive if he was not assured of compensation in accordance with the ‘Badrinath Master Plan’, Mr. Rana alleged that the State is trying to “get rid of” the buildings to tackle the situation at the present moment. “They will just abandon us when the media goes back. All I want is that I should be given the same compensation that the State has given to the residents of Badrinath when it acquired their land for the ambitious Badrinath temple beautification,” he said.
Umawati Devi, one of the protestors whose house is also in the “danger zone”, alleged that the district administration had threatened her to seal her house if she did not vacate it immediately. “Where will I go leaving everything behind overnight? We all know that the government will leave us to sleep on the roads after some time,” she said.
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Officials of the district administration refuted claims that Badrinath residents were paid four times the Circle rates as compensation. “We had paid twice the Circle rates in Badrinath as per the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. In the case of rural areas, the compensation is four times,” Abhishek Tripathi, Additional District Magistrate, Chamoli, said.
Mr. Tripathi also said the hotel property’s value assessment had already been carried out and the demolition will take place under the supervision of the Central Building Research Institute, Roorkee.
The State government on Tuesday declared that over 723 houses in Joshimath had witnessed the damage and around 86 houses are in the “unsafe zone” and “danger zone”, which need to be demolished immediately. Over 34 families have been rehabilitated by the administration in the last 24 hours.
The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), under the chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, conducted a review meeting with Uttarakhand officials to take stock of the present situation in Joshimath.
S.S. Sandhu, Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand, briefed the NCMC and said the residents of severely damaged houses were being shifted to safe places. Relief shelters have been identified in Joshimath and Pipalkoti to accommodate the affected families. Mr. Sandhu told the Centre that appropriate compensation and relief measures were being provided by the State government.
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The Union Home Secretary apprised the NCMC that a high-level Central team of the Ministry of Home Affairs, led by the Secretary, of Border Management, is at Joshimath for assessing the situation. The Cabinet Secretary stressed that the immediate priority should be complete and safe evacuation of all residents in the affected zone.